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Upgrade to record-keeping is urged

Cattaraugus County's computerized record-keeping systems, which keep track of financial, human resources and payroll data, are working but could be more efficient, secure and interactive with an upgrade, consultants say.

The Center for Governmental Research (CGR) recently surveyed county staff and department representatives and found most desire the upgrade to streamline data management, eliminate redundant tasks and provide real-time access to data.

The report was handed to county legislators Wednesday -- first during an afternoon leadership conference and later in a brief presentation to the full Legislature. The study points up the need for a plan to enhance the technology and replace older, obsolete hardware and improve payroll and timekeeping functions.

According to the report, the current system lacks "intuitiveness" and has insufficient reporting capability, while a transition to a database-driven system would allow data-sharing and lessen the workload for some departments.

"I would use the term "old," said The Center for Governmental Research's Tim Noble, in response to a comment from Paul J. Schafer, R-Olean, that the report contains "harsh charges" that the county's system is "chaotic" and "deplorable."

"There are integrated systems out there that would solve these questions," Noble said.

CGR representatives later remarked that a replacement project could cost $500,000 or $1 million but Finance Committee Chairman Michael T. O'Brien, R-Portville, said the number is just an estimate and nobody knows at this point how much the county might have to spend for this purpose.

O'Brien said other committees besides Finance will begin discussions to set some priority tasks to define a systems overhaul and only then could current costs be determined. Any future appropriations or budget planning for the project could hinge on the 2006 year-end financial audits that are now being completed to determine how much surplus is available to augment spending in the future, he said.

Michael F. McLaughlin, D-Olean, pointed out the systems replacement project was recommended as a high priority on a list of items for funding in a 2004 Strategic Planning Committee report.

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